WARNING: This synopsis contains spoilers.
(BOLD CAPITALIZATION is used to indicate songs.)
In the locker rooms, Sam Bradley, a 14-year-old high school freshman, follows a daily routine at the end of gym class to change his shirt and leave the locker room unnoticed. One day, he inadvertently ends up staring directly at three bullies – Tommy, Hunter, and Chase – as they exit the showers.
Sam’s home life is difficult. He hardly speaks to his parents and he sees that they’ve fallen out of love (WHEN). Meanwhile, Chase and Tommy come to Chase’s house to find his mother, Mrs. Cruz, passed out in front of the house from popping pills prescribed to her for pain.
Back in the hallways of the school, the three bullies circle in on Sam, call him a “faggot,” and beat him up. (THE BULLIES’ SONG) Sam is too afraid to name his attackers and the guidance counselor, Mr. Ross, laments the school’s slap-on-the-wrist response to violence.
At Hunter’s house, his parents are arguing furiously and getting violent. Hunter locks himself in his room and sings a hard rock song of unbridled youthful angst. (HUNTER’S SONG) Back at the Bradley household, Sam’s father tries in vain to talk to him. After Mr. Bradley leaves Sam’s rooms, Sam speaks his only line of the film: “Night.”
When the security cameras identify the bullies, Tommy’s father attacks him. Desperate to stop the attack, Tommy pleads that they only did it because Sam was “looking at us.” His father is instantly uncomfortable and angrily storms the principal’s office, saying that they need to let boys be boys, and that without fighting, they’d breed a bunch of sissies. (START RAISING MEN)
The bullies have been suspended. Sam nervously steps off the school bus, where he’s confronted by Tommy, who tries to warn him that he can’t act like that at school or he’ll keep getting beaten up. Sam is too terrified to listen and runs for his life. Tommy grabs his backpack to try to stop him, but Sam slips out of it and runs toward his house. With the bullies’ taunts still ringing in his ears, he rushes into his house, feverishly writes a suicide note, and shoots himself in the head with his father’s gun.
We pull away from the action to hear four people’s IT GETS BETTER stories of moving from suicidal thoughts in childhood to rich, fulfilling lives in adulthood.
Back at the Bradley household, the police have just left, leaving Mrs. Bradley feeling like her home has become a HOLLOW HOUSE. The press has already descended upon the town and has become the new bullies. Hunter and Chase’s mothers meet with the principal and guidance counselor to discuss how to handle the press. The mothers make tearful apologies for their sons, taking the blame themselves for their sons’ difficult childhoods. (HE’S A CHILD) Mr. Ross, the guidance counselor, is left wondering who will be next student to commit suicide without him seeing it coming. (WHO’S NEXT)
The bullies, still suspended, discuss Sam’s suicide and their blamelessness. (THE BULLIES’ SONG – REPRISE)
That night, people gather to mourn Sam’s passing and to hope for a better tomorrow. (RAISE YOUR VOICE) On the way back from the memorial, Sam’s parents are ambushed by the press, asking questions about Sam’s sexual orientation, life, and suicide. When one of the reporters asks Mrs. Bradley, “Can you tell us who Sam Bradley was,” the enormity of the word “was” floors Mrs. Bradley as her son’s death is suddenly made real and she’s flooded with memories of the boy she’s lost. (WAS) The Bradleys escape the press, but the reporters have their story and they’re ready to move on to the next day’s sensationalism. (THE MORE IT BLEEDS)
Mr. Bradley tries to comfort Mrs. Bradley, but she pushes him away. Whatever tenuous ties were present in their marriage have now broken. Mr. Bradley feels angry at his son’s actions. (DID HE THINK)
Late at night, Sam’s memorial site is still. Tommy enters and returns Sam’s backpack. Suddenly overcome with emotion, he reaches down and destroys all the flowers. He’s left on his knees, clutching the mangled flowers, saying only, “You did this.”
The screenplay is ©2011-2017 Aaron Alon (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved.